British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday set out a four-step plan to ease coronavirus restrictions, expressing hope that life could get back to normal by the end of June.
In a statement to parliament, he outlined a “gradual and cautious” approach to lifting curbs in England, starting with the reopening of schools from March 8 and non-essential retail from April 12.
Some fans could be able to attend sporting fixtures from May 17, while all social distancing restrictions could be removed from June 21 — all subject to change and depending on scientific data.
The announcement is the first big step towards restoring normal life, nearly a year after Johnson imposed the first of three stay-at-home orders that have devastated Britain’s economy.
Johnson told MPs that with a mass vaccination programme easing pressure on overstretched hospitals, “the end really is in sight”.
“A wretched year will give way to a spring and summer that will be very different and incomparably better than the picture we see around us today,” he added.
The Conservative leader, who was accused of acting too late and relaxing curbs too early last year, said the plan would be “cautious but irreversible”, ensuring no more lockdowns.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer urged Johnson not to buckle in the face of pressure from Conservative lawmakers for a faster return to normality.
Such a move would “waste all the sacrifices of the last 12 months”, Starmer warned.